I don’t believe this is necessarily a “great” topic, but it’s definitely a debate.
When asked if I would ever allow myself to be teleported, a la Star Trek, I find myself very much on the Dr. McCoy side of the equation. Teleportation, as described in that universe, would not move me instantaneously from Point A to Point B. It would utterly disintegrate me at Point A and create an exact copy of me at Point B. My consciousness would be vaporized and a new entity with my memories and identity would begin.
Except . . .
Doesn’t that happen anyways, just over a longer period of time? With the exception of neurons, every cell in the human body is replaced eventually. Some on a scale of hours or days, others on a scale of years. And even for those neurons, isn’t there an exchange and renewal of molecules and atoms during the lifespan of the cell? At the end of 70 years or more, is there much of a chance that any of the atoms which comprise the cell are the same atoms absorbed and donated by the mother during pregnancy?
So, if I can call the heirloom leaning against my fireplace hearth my grandfather’s axe, even though the handle has been replaced five times and the head has been replaced three times since he bought it, can I then also call myself the same person I was when I was born? And if I chose to be teleported, am I the same person after the teleportation that I was before, even if all my atoms and molecules have been swapped out for fresh ones?
The paradox of my grandfather’s axe is also called The Ship of Theseus.